Dancing drones, Tamagotchis and burqas – are you ready for 2016?

Drone ballet: A drone “dancing” troupe was shown at Las Vegas’s 2016 CES exhibition for the first time. A Guinness-Book-confirmed record number of 100 drones performed breathtaking choreography to a live orchestra performance of Beethoven’s 5th, demonstrating that you can fly drones with incredible precision and safety. Want proof? Here’s the footage. Drone privacy and safety issues haven’t been fully resolved, however, with Amazon proposing drone-only flight paths – cc your Logistics Dept. as we expect the legal framework to be in place by Christmas 2016.

How does that make you feel? Fed up with focus groups? Apple has an answer – show the user a new gadget, and just let the computer camera ‘watch’ his face, analyse his ‘micro-emotions’ then get your market research answers on a slick dashboard. Is he excited? Will it make him reach for the wallet? Emotient (founded by young human vision and perception expert Javier Movellan) has just been acquired by Apple for big money as it has a unique patent to analyse human emotions and facial expressions. It will anonymise your facial record (in theory) and inform advertisers about reactions to their product. Microsoft is not far behind with their Project Oxford so the days of ‘second guessing’ customers are over. What would the Information Commissioner’s Office say to an emotion-analysing system in every store? Before we have the answer, a full burqa may be a good fashion choice.

Would your kids wear this? On the topic of tracking (one of the biggest areas covered at CES) a kids tracker called Caretime, a Tamagotchi-like cute smartwatch, will let you keep an eye on your youngsters in real time. This GPS-enabled smartwatch helps parents let their kids be more independent instead of being ferried by car everywhere. The watch lets you follow the kids on Google Maps, with pins showing their current locations. There is a catch though – the GPS data doesn’t go just to parents but also to the supplier. No doubt it will then be flogged to the highest advertising bidder and, as we know, data isn’t always secure these days. There’s also the risk that the teens can just leave it at a friend’s house and go somewhere they shouldn’t, so a pulse-based identifier may be needed in version 2.0…

Big brother is watching: Do you know how much time your employees spend at their desk? Does it matter? The Telegraph’s journalists did not take well to being monitored via desk beacons assessing the time spent at their desks, and demanded the trackers be removed (which the embarrassed newspaper did immediately). But the tech is here to stay, as the pressure cost-cut (like minimising the use of lights in empty rooms) will drive bosses to drop beacons in a lot more places shortly. No more jumper-on-the-chair tactics…

The company you keep… Who makes you calm? Who excites you? Who is a pain in the backside? Pplkpr (pronounced People Keeper!), an app with a heart monitor, can now track your responses to ‘certain people’ (or brands and stores) and tell you which company to keep. TalkTalk and Ryanair are definitely making us see red, while Hugo Boss’s spacious, temple-like stores are a sanctuary of calm and peace. Branding gurus may be replaced by this insightful app by Lauren McCarthy.

Wearables get mini: While facial analysers are proposed to track consumers in store, leading to an increasing loss of privacy, there’s at least one product that appears to be useful – the ŌURA ring of Wellness. It may sound like a hippie souvenir from Glastonbury, but it is in fact a ring that tracks your sleep without having to wear a bracelet. A competitor to Fitbit, ŌURA ring will provide you detailed feedback on your sleep quality and help you to manage your time in general by keeping a log of your daily activities. Recommended for those who, like us, don’t like bracelets in bed, and for notoriously overoptimistic start-up people!

The winner of our Social Media Campaign for 2016 is @WeWantPlates and its author @RossMcGinnes – fed up with pretentious no-plate hipster eatery nonsense, their (excellent) Twitter account is aimed anyone who has to put up with this disturbing trend. The unexpected beneficiary was Churchill China, who reported an increase in plate sales as a result of the campaign, with shares up 170%!  A bottle of Champagne is on the way to @WeWantPlates.

Share your social media heroes with us on Twitter @RetailPractice!

The stars look very different today…The TRP team was just as shocked as anyone to read of the passing of the visionary artist David Bowie. He changed England and its artistic and creative communities for the better and he was so loved, as we can see from the worldwide outpouring of emotion and tribute. Our resident Bowie nut, Liz Tray, went to see his V&A exhibition in 2013 and wrote about it here, so we will sign off for today with her report. Safe travels Starman.